Apple's iPhone 8 may include a curved display, though the Wall Street Journal is a little skeptical on that particular feature. Whether it's this year or sometime in the future, there's one particular Japanese company that is focused on making their pitch to Apple about their specialty curved and bendable display technologies and expanding capacity.
A Nikkei report notes that Japan-based Sumitomo Chemical will invest US$132 million to set up a factory for curved-surface AMOLED touch panels based on thin-film substrates in South Korea. , according to Japan-based Nikkei.
With annual capacity of 400 million glass substrate-based AMOLED touch panels, Sumitomo Chemical is currently the largest supplier with a global market share of 60-70%.
The touch-detection circuitry for the bendable screens is fabricated on plastic films instead of glass substrates. Being lighter than glass, these plastic touchscreens are easier to handle in the production process. Being bendable, they give smartphone makers greater design flexibility.
In a related report on Sumitomo they noted that "In view of large potential demand for curved-surface AMOLED touch panels, Sumitomo Chemical will set up the factory to triple its annual capacity to more than 100 million units in 2018. Sumitomo Chemical will target Apple, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and China-based smartphone vendors a customers for the panels."
One of key advantages to Sumitomo Chemical is that their displays are not only bendable but are being readied to be foldable by next year. Patently Apple posted a report in December titled "A Leading Supplier of Foldable Display Technology Confirms Five Tech Companies are Testing Foldable Smartphones" in that report one of the key companies behind foldable technology was noted as Kolon Industries. They'll be supplying Samsung, LG and BOE with the technology for foldable displays. In mid-February Patently Apple posted a report titled "Beyond the 160 Million OLED Displays already Secured with Samsung, Apple is now in Talks with China's BOE."
It's clear that there's a small world of specialty OLED display suppliers that are preparing for a world where curved, bendable and foldable displays will be commonplace and that Apple is talking to each of these companies and testing out their displays with different properties so that they could better decide on which designs to go with in the future. Today we're learning about the latest potential supplier: Sumitomo Chemical.
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